Purple skies, gentle sounds and pure joy - Sam Beam of Iron & Wine, waxes lyrical with us ahead of his Valentine’s Day show in Dublin
Bunkering down against chilly weather in the beautiful Old Town of Prague, Sam Beam is currently more than halfway through his European tour. Due to play The Helix in Dublin on the February 14, his gentle guitar and soft, sweet lyrics make a perfect accompaniment to the Day that's in it. “It’ll be a very romantic evening,” he promises.
Hailing originally from South Carolina, Iron & Wine came to be in 2002 with the release of stunning debut effort The Creek Drank The Cradle. Since then, Beam has brought out five other studio albums, with the latest, Beast Epic, having been released back in August. Having regularly been featured in numerous television shows and films,
as well as having spun into diverse musical avenues with EPs and other projects, Beam's music has been consistently received well by musical critics. Now 43 years old, the well established musician spends most of his time at home in North Carolina, where he lives with his wife and daughters.
“The sky has turned purple. The grass is now flaming orange and red. The trees are all upside down,” he jokes, speaking about his now Republican-dominated state. “But you know, the election wasn’t a huge surprise, where I live has always been a very conservative state. Now I live in Durham, Chapel Hill area - a progressive bubble in a Republican hell. I like to embed myself in enemy territory. I’m like a mole”.
Turning quickly away from politics, Beam tackles some of the themes behind his latest opus. With Beast Epic is now just under six months old, the name and creation process of the album points to the intelligence and love Beam has for his craft - but it was also named such because it sounded “really fucking cool”. Defined as "a long, usually allegorical verse narrative in which the characters are animals with human feelings and motives", Beam recalls that the album came from loosening his musical muscles and “closing your eyes, doing what comes naturally. I’m usually trying to push into unfamiliar territory and I always enjoy that process. I’m usually much more interested in what’s around the corner instead of perfecting something”.
When singing live, Beam now tries to let his voice do what it's always done best, instead of pushing it to new heights. “This time was a little different, I’ve been trying new things for a while and just wanted to see what happens. I’ve been learning a lot about my voice over the last two projects I did - which were collaborative projects where it was more part of the ensemble”.
When listening to an Iron & Wine album, there’s a near tangible sense of atmosphere. With Beast Epic, Beam feels that the songs have unintentionally tapped into some of his intimate older work, such as 2004's Our Endless Numbered Days. It wasn’t planned, but his process allowed for it. Having been recorded in Wilco’s loft in Chicago, a real comfortable, cosy space, he worked with friends whom he’d played music with previously in different contexts, but never all together in the one space. “That’s always fun, to see what kind of conversation you make as a group. Making the thing was just pure joy. It feels like someone reaching in to their thoughts and putting them on a table in front of you.”
It’s clear that Beam takes great comfort and enjoyment in what he creates - raw guitars and instrumentation melding together with poetic lyrics, teeming with opportune nostalgia and appreciation for how he became who he is now. Here, he humorously states that he has a talent for creeping back into people’s lives with his music. “I’ll always be sneaking up when you don’t expect itl” he says with a grin, guitar at the ready, bound for Dublin before heading back into his molehill situated in the middle of a purple sky and flaming grassland.
Tickets for Iron & Beam are available from Ticketmaster for €32.50 now and other usual outlets nationwide.
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